Illness, Providence, Ireland – and H. J. A. Sire

Normally, I resist speaking too personally at this site. However, after long weeks of absence from it, some sort of explanation seems in order.

Thus, I begin by pasting in a very personal notice I originally wrote for Facebook:

Some of you may have wondered what happened to me – given that I’ve neither been on Facebook, nor been blogging, nor active on any forums, etc.

It is high-time I said something – or past high-time. I fear I may have offended some of you with non-responsiveness and if that’s true of any of you reading this, I truly am sorry. Please forgive me.

The reason has been illness – fairly prolonged and frustrating – but not of serious consequence in the end. I finally seem to be recovering and really, for the most part I’ve not been suffering much, apart from total loss of energy – complete, utter exhaustion.

Compared to what some of you friends are suffering, my illness has been downright cushy!

Still, I had to drop  everything non-essential. As I say, I’ve hardly been on the Internet for weeks.

I’ve also been held up in finalising the text of my very big book – whose publication is unfortunately now pushed back to Autumn. And I’m further behind than ever in correspondence (which, alas, I’m always behind on).

Somehow, though, it all seems providential to me. As some of you know, my feelings about the internet remain ambivalent.

On the one hand, I’ve recently been converted to Facebook. I really do see value – which I didn’t always in the past – in even the very small exchanges Facebook makes possible. These can  be very supportive, like a smile, a nod, a wink in ordinary life. I will be slowly returning to FB and am actually looking forward to it.

On the other hand, I, for one, need to get away from the internet at times – completely. Thus, every Christmas is a sacred retreat for me – where I consciously unplug myself during those holy days. And the spiritual fruits they yield are alway considerable.

And it feels the same now – as if Providence forced me to shut down – for another ‘sacred retreat’. And yet I feel I am returning to life with real gifts from it.

And there’s a bit more personal stuff here at my Facebook page, should anyone be interested

Here I will mention, though, that a real gift from this enforced ‘down time‘ has been reading and re-reading H. J. A. Sire’s truly profound book Phoenix from the Ashes: The Making, Unmaking, and Restoration of Catholic Tradition.

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Joseph Ratzinger, quoted copiously in Sire’s masterpiece.

This seems to me the best book in many years on the crisis in the Church.

Crisis … somehow that word sounds too trite. What Sire amply demonstrates is the sheer, utter WORLDLINESS openly introduced into the Church during the 1960s.

He makes very clear indeed how much our Church of today – where it is so hard to speak of realities like sin, hell, the devil, the uniqueness of Christianity etc. – hardly springs from a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit, but rather one fearful concession after another to the spirit of our secular and liberal world.

He demonstrates how that clearly started with the Second Vatican Council and has since spread out through seminaries, universities, dioceses, Catholic media and more.

Above, I called Sire book’s  ‘profound’ – and I don’t use that word lightly. This book is a masterpiece. Indeed, it is another one from my publisher Angelico Press – I believe the greatest I have read so far.

I fear all my gushing about Angelico’s books may start to sound insincere. But my enthusiasm is real and would exist whether they were publishing my books or not.

Sire’s work alone has changed me, during this illness. For, as I shall elaborate soon in a review, it has deepened my sense of the full extent of the sickness of the Church. As I write in my soon-to-be-published review:

Phoenix from the Ashes … provides a bracing dose of  both wisdom and grim reality. And it calls me to be more real and less frivolous: Time to roll up my sleeves and work.

For I have been to countless zany masses in my life. I have long read of the grotesque antics of Kung, Schillebeckx, Rahner and all the rest – covered in these pages in merciless detail. And I have witnessed the way the Catholic Church ever more resembles the false, happy New Age-ism of my misspent youth.

But Sire challenges me to be serious.

I will also say something similar has happened to me, during my illness, in regards to the plight of modern Ireland. Clearly, this is not unrelated to the above. The worldliness of the post-conciliar Church cannot be absolved when considering the worldly materialism of secular Ireland.

Obviously, there are other factors too. Amongst these is the deluge of Anglo-American media that, not so long ago, Patrick Pearse, Éamon de Valera and many other pioneers of Irish independence were so gravely concerned about.

Here I am hinting at something – for during my illness, a definite project for Ireland started forming in my prayer.


Just like Sire has encouraged me to be more existentially serious regarding the Church, so has my reading and reflection on Ireland’s loss of independence. This is to say, her ongoing transformation into yet another province of the Anglo-American Protestant-turned-secular-world.

To speak of Providence here may strike some as strange. But I needed to be slowed down, to get the full force of Sire’s arguments, to see Ireland’s situation more starkly and to allow this new Irish project to come into focus …

Finally, I apologise, again, to any one of you who might feel slighted or ignored for my now terribly long delays in responding, I beg forgiveness. I read and appreciate every serious letter I receive, but please note it may take me awhile to catch up.

Alas, I now have a greater backlog of mail than I have ever had in my life! And again, I’m in the process of finalising of my very big book, so that it can be sent to the editors next month.

So I ask you for your patience and thank you for your continuing to read this site. God bless you all.

 

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